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In this update of Eyewitness in Manchester I focus on sacred sites, i.e. places with connections to religion and spirituality, including churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, statues, deconsecrated places of worship, sites of demolished churches, cemeteries, and any spot or location with a spiritual dimension.

Despite the secularisation of society, the sites we call 'sacred' continue to have a huge impact on the character and identity of our urban and rural areas.

Over the centuries, Manchester has attracted people of different origins and faiths. The structures they built in which to practice their faith are a key element in the identity of the city and surrounding area. Manchester can be proud of the fact that it is now, and generally has been, a place where people of differing religions and lifestyles get along well together.

Every sacred site contains clues and hidden meanings which point to the people connected with it, their stories, their lives, their customs and belief systems. I aim through the photographs and brief descriptions to create a window of curiosity on each of the places, to spark off memories, stimulate discussion and inspire further research.

Churches and other places of organised religion are of key importance to people researching family history. For those living away from their local area, a photo of a particular place of worship may be a valuable link with a family member, an ancestor or childhood years. For old photos of churches in Manchester, I recommend the Manchester Central Library Archives and Local Studies Unit

Religious buildings are all around us, often standing on the highest and most prominent locations. Many have disappeared. Some have been repurposed, now serving as offices, homes or warehouses. Church spires continue as potent landmarks on the urban and rural landscapes, though in some cases the church attached to them has gone.

In recent years, new and exotic symbols have appeared on the city skyline, marking the latest wave of immigrants, many from distant corners of the world. Sacred sites often provide a link with a distant past or in the case of mosques and temples, a link with a distant place.

For this first edition of Sacred Sites I have used my own archive images as well as recently taken photographs.

There is no geographical or chronological theme, no quota, no order or hierarchy. I simply present a small selection of the sacred sites I know, have stumbled upon or which people have requested I photograph.

For subsequent instalments of Sacred Sites I'd like readers to send me requests for places of worship they'd like to see. It doesn't matter what creed or denomination, what size or style of architecture, I would like to capture the places that mean something to readers, as well as more of the locations of that are interesting to me.

Whatever you believe or whether you believe, sacred sites are all around us and can't be ignored: Imagine what our city and region would be like without them! No doubt they'll still be there in centuries and millennia to come. I hope the photos and descriptions presented here will be too!


All photos and articles © Aidan O'Rourke

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